Princeton Election Consortium

A first draft of electoral history. Since 2004

Politics & Polls #30

February 10th, 2017, 2:31pm by Sam Wang


A federal appeals court has blocked President Donald Trump’s executive order issuing an immigration ban barring people from seven predominantly Muslim countries from entering the United States. Trump also has made moves toward building a border wall with Mexico, which recent figures suggest may cost an estimated $21 billion.

To get into what these moves would actually accomplish, Julian Zelizer and I took a deep dive into immigration and border control with Doug Massey, one of the country’s leading experts in this field. Massey busted many myths, including the question of whether the effect of a border wall is to keep people out of the United States – or cage them inside.

Link: http://bit.ly/PoliticsAndPolls30

Bonus: Doug Massey has made a cool appearance on Adam Ruins Everything to explain these points. Scroll to 3:20. Doug is hilarious.

→ 5 CommentsTags: President · U.S. Institutions

Awesome telling of the story of 2016

February 8th, 2017, 8:32pm by Sam Wang


A splendid telling of the story of 2016, by Mike Davis at Jacobin. Davis weaves together unbreakable party loyalty, evangelicals, redistricting and gerrymandering, and the hostile takeover of the Republicans into a coherent tale. I don’t know of a better telling of where we went – and where we may go next.

To be continued.

→ 12 CommentsTags: 2016 Election · President

Live feed of Ninth Circuit – Muslim ban case

February 7th, 2017, 7:04pm by Sam Wang


Oral arguments here. Liveblogging at the New York Times suggests that at least two of the three judges on the panel lean toward keeping the ban suspended for now. Whatever happens, the court will consider the ban’s merits later.

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Auto-Crat (TM) 1.0

February 5th, 2017, 11:48am by Sam Wang


Here is an idea that, if done well, subverts the use of Twitter as a political tool by making the content into a joke.


We hear about technology as a destroyer of jobs: automated factories, and maybe someday self-driving cars. These trends hit a whole sector of Trump’s supporters. But could the need for Trump himself be eliminated?

Above is an example of a Trump tweet simulator. The idea is fairly simple. [Read more →]

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Politics & Polls #29

February 3rd, 2017, 7:34am by Sam Wang


Are we seeing the birth cries of an authoritarian regime? Or is it the gang that couldn’t shoot straight? Julian Zelizer and I debate this and more in episode #29 of Politics & Polls.

Following up on a previous episode with Theda Skocpol on rebuilding the Democratic Party, here’s a great interview with Skocpol in Democracy Journal about learning from the Tea Party movement.

→ 8 CommentsTags: 2018 Election · House · President

Authoritarian Government Watch

January 28th, 2017, 5:00am by Sam Wang


I’ve written before on what features are shared by fascist movements, and a ten-point warning checklist for how 2017 America may becoming like 1934 Germany. After 7 8 10 13 28 days of the new Administration, how are things going?

I score them doing or attempting three four five (six?) out of ten so far: #1, #3, #4, (#5?), #7, and #8. Note that some of these are not yes/no issues, especially while a story is unfolding.

  1. Taking sides with a foreign power against domestic opposition.
  2. Detention of journalists.
  3. Loss of press access to the White House.
  4. Made-up charges against those who disagree with the government.
  5. Use of governmental power to target individual citizens for retribution.
  6. Use of a terrorist incident or an international incident to take away civil liberties.
  7. Persecution of an ethnic or religious minority, either by the Administration or its supporters.
  8. Removal of civil service employees for insufficient loyalty or membership in a suspect group (e.g. LGBT, Muslim, and other groups). (2/16: also the intelligence community)
  9. Use of the Presidency to incite popular violence against individuals or organizations.
  10. Defying the orders of courts, including the Supreme Court.

Some notes:

#2: On the day of the inauguration, journalists were arrested. Does that count? It might be an isolated instance. I’m not counting it.

#3: Trump’s only calling on right-wing outlets at press conferences. A borderline situation, but it seems like a major disconnect with the press. (Update 2/17: he called on some regular reporters, such as CNN’s Jim Acosta…though he did abuse them a fair bit.)

#4: Trump makes false claims of massive voter fraud. These claims have no basis in reality.

#5: Feb. 17: In his meandering, uncomfortable press conference yesterday, Trump said he was directing the Justice Department to investigate criminal leaks. Usually, Presidents do not direct criminal investigations because of the concern of politicizing law enforcement. Does this meet criteria? I’m not counting it yet…but it’s developing.

#8: This is in flux. Acting Attorney General Yates was a career civil servant, but also an appointee of the previous Administration. However, in light of the multiple lower-court orders regarding the executive order, her firing raises questions about whether the rule of law is being eroded. Also, Press Secretary Sean Spicer has made threats against career diplomats in the State Department that if they don’t agree with the President’s executive order, they should leave. After feedback from pechmerle (see comments), I am downgrading this for now.

#10 is looking a lot like it’s happening. As of February 2nd, Customs and Border Patrol appears to be purposely finding ways to misinterpret court orders that are clearly worded. Update: maybe they’re backing down for now.

Overall, what is probably needed is a graded scale: (a) none, (b) one or two isolated instances; (c) a pattern of conduct or purposeful effort; and (d) establishment of a standing policy. As conditions deteriorate, I can formalize this approach.

Also, unfortunately I left out things like making obvious false statements, for instance the recent falsehoods about voting fraud, or invocation of an event that never happened like the “Bowling Green Massacre”; and curtailment of free speech of government employees. Maybe that can be a separate list. I am interested in what other indicators have been left out.

→ 44 CommentsTags: President · U.S. Institutions

Politics & Polls #28: Katha Pollitt on The Women’s March on Washington

January 26th, 2017, 7:17pm by Sam Wang


Hailed as one of the largest protests in American history, the Women’s March on Washington gathered hundreds of thousands of people in the District and millions in sister marches around the world. In episode #28 of Politics & Polls, Julian Zelizer and I discuss the march and reproductive rights with Katha Pollitt, a columnist for The Nation.

Link to P&P #28: http://bit.ly/PoliticsAndPolls28

Previous P&P #27: Rebuilding the Democratic Party. (a description is here)

→ 1 CommentTags: Politics

Can the speech rights of government employees be restricted?

January 25th, 2017, 8:19am by Sam Wang


Federal agencies have come under pressure to stop communicating about the science of climate change. The National Park Service has recently deleted social-media communications about carbon dioxide, which is the main cause of global warming.

However, it turns out that there are First Amendment issues. A public employee is allowed to speak publicly or share information with the media, if that information is not secret or classified, and if that person speaks as a citizen and not as a representative of the government. Amanda Marcotte reports.

Update: commenter Pechmerle, a lawyer, points out that the Supreme Court has, in a series of leading cases, laid out a balancing test between the government’s legitimate interests in confidentiality vs. the employee’s right to speak out. It’s a three-part test:

(1) The speech is a matter of “public concern,”
(2) The employee spoke as a private citizen and not a public employee (i.e., speech is not pursuant to “official duties”), and
(3) The employee’s speech interest outweighs the agency’s interest in efficiency and effectiveness.

Note particularly the word “outweighs” in factor (3). Such balancing tests get fleshed out, over time, slowly and painfully, as lower court cases face specific fact situations. The good news is that the ACLU has already announced that it stands ready to assist any federal employee faced with improper suppression of his/her speech.

You can donate to the American Civil Liberties Union here.

→ 14 CommentsTags: President

Readings for the Inauguration…and the day after

January 19th, 2017, 10:40pm by Sam Wang


Dissent is a patriotic act, when you are trying to make a nation better, or prevent it from becoming worse. For why protest matters, see Eugene Robinson and Sarah Jaffe. Practically speaking, protest by itself does not achieve a goal, but as Jaffe argues, protest is a vital part of democracy, and is way for those who feel strongly to discover that they are not alone. It is a first step before later, practical actions (see Indivisible, the ACLU, the Brennan Center, Evan McMullin, and other links in the right sidebar).

Needless to say, the best outcome would be if the worst fears expressed about the new Administration never came to pass. It could happen if the press faces up to the threat they face (see Josh Marshall), if progressives rise to the occasion (see Indivisible), and if conservatives of conscience make it clear that many issues, such as equal justice for all and freedom of expression, transcend party (see Evan McMullin). If these three groups succeed, it would be a testament to Churchill’s statement that Americans can be relied upon to do the right thing, after trying all the alternatives.

In the meantime, here are some of the fears: essays by Masha Gessen, Timothy Snyder, Aleksandar Hemon, and Sarah Kendzior. Krugman points out that the incoming administration isn’t ready, which may slow things a bit and suggests a different, perhaps less threatening, kind of failure. My analysis of President Trump’s record-low approval ratings suggests a surprisingly weak presidency.

→ 5 CommentsTags: President · U.S. Institutions

Politics & Polls #27: Who Will Rebuild the Democratic Party? (spoiler: you)

January 19th, 2017, 2:37pm by Sam Wang


In episode #27 of Politics & Polls, Julian Zelizer and I interview leading political scientist Theda Skocpol about her recent article in Vox: “A Guide to Rebuilding the Democratic Party from the Ground Up.” In the piece, Skocpol outlines how the Democratic Party can be rebuilt from the ground up, beginning at the state and local levels.

Link to P&P #27: http://bit.ly/PoliticsAndPolls27

Previous P&P #26: Indivisible. (a description is here)

→ 1 CommentTags: U.S. Institutions